PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – It’s been a rainy April, but prolonged drought is still impacting parts of Oregon. On Monday, Gov. Kate Brown issued drought declarations for four Oregon counties.
Deschutes, Grant, Lake and Malheur counties are the latest where the governor has declared a drought. These counties join Gilliam, Morrow, Jefferson, Crook, Harney, Klamath and Jackson counties, for which the governor declared a drought earlier in 2022.
Wallowa County also requested a drought declaration on April 20, but a decision hasn’t been made yet for that county.
“It’s forecasted to be a difficult drought year, and I am committed to bringing state agency resources to everyone impacted by low water and precipitation levels,” Brown wrote in a tweet announcing her decision.
In her executive order issued Monday, Brown said her decisions were based on recommendations from the Drought Readiness Council and the Water Supply Availability Committee. The governor said the low snowpack, low reservoir levels and low streamflow have caused or will cause natural and economic disaster conditions in the counties.
Water supply conditions and precipitation levels are not expected to improve and the governor expects the extreme conditions will affect local growers and livestock and increase the potential for fire.
KOIN 6 News Meteorologist Joseph Dames said he wholeheartedly agrees with Brown’s declaration. He said although the state has seen precipitation improvements in April, the rain and snow season is concluding and larger improvements are unlikely.
“The drought conditions are still grim in the counties they are addressing. The summer months have consistently been dry since I have been here in 2015, meaning the average rainfall has been cut. The rain and snow seasons are equally underperforming for those counties,” Dames said.
He said the limited moisture that arrives during the summer in Oregon also primes those counties for lightning. The combination of drought conditions and lightning can cause destruction and major setbacks, Dames said.
Hopefully the ability for agencies and residents to come together to help prepare for the ongoing drought will help ease some of the tough stress that those counties endure during the summer and what seems to carry over from year to year now.
The governor’s drought declaration is meant to provide additional resources for the counties in need in the following ways:
It directs the Oregon Department of Agriculture to provide assistance in seeking federal resources to mitigate drought conditions and assist with agricultural recovery.
The Oregon Water Resources Department and the Water Resources Commission are required to provide assistance to water users in the affected counties as they determine necessary.
The Oregon Water Resources Department must also seek information from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to help understand the impacts of water availability on the state’s wild animals.
The Office of Emergency Management is instructed to help assess and mitigate activities to address the current and projected drought conditions in the county.
All other state agencies are asked to provide appropriate state resources to the counties to assist water users.
The executive order expires December 31, 2022.
According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, more than 17% of Oregon is in exceptional drought and more than 53% of the state is in extreme drought.
Currently, 1.3 million people in Oregon are affected by drought and there are 18 counties with USDA disaster designations.